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Putin’s soldiers ‘who shot dead three young volunteers as they took food to dog shelter unmasked’

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Ukrainian investigators claim to have unmasked Putin’s soldiers who allegedly shot dead three young volunteers as they took food to a Kyiv dog shelter, with one probable killer later being given the name ‘Hero of Russia’.

The investigation focuses on Nastia Yalanska, 26, Maksym Kuzmenko, 28, and Serhii Ustymenko, 25, three friends who were killed by Russian soldiers on March 4, 2022, while delivering dog food to an animal shelter in the Ukrainian town Zabuchchia. 

The film Bucha – Final Destination, published by Suspilne Ukraine a year after their deaths, includes heartbreaking testimonies by the mothers of the three volunteers, one of whom found their bodies after they were killed.

On March 4, 2022, shortly after 9am, Russian BMD’s – airborne combat vehicles – rolled up at the bottom of Kyievo-Myrotska Street in Bucha.

At the same time, Nastia, Serhii and Maksym were getting ready to leave the village of Hatne near Kyiv to deliver dog food to an animal shelter nearby.

Ukrainian investigators claim to have unmasked Putin's soldiers based on security footage of a shop (pictured). They identified a soldier called David Makarenko (third soldier in the back of the picture). He later revealed to the journalists who else was with him that day and who was in command

Ukrainian investigators claim to have unmasked Putin’s soldiers based on security footage of a shop (pictured). They identified a soldier called David Makarenko (third soldier in the back of the picture). He later revealed to the journalists who else was with him that day and who was in command

The investigation focuses on Nastia Yalanska (pictured), 26, Maksym Kuzmenko, 28, and Serhii Ustymenko, 25, three friends who were killed by Russian soldiers on March 4, 2022, while delivering dog food to an animal shelter in Zabuchchia

The investigation focuses on Nastia Yalanska (pictured), 26, Maksym Kuzmenko, 28, and Serhii Ustymenko, 25, three friends who were killed by Russian soldiers on March 4, 2022, while delivering dog food to an animal shelter in Zabuchchia

Maksym (pictured) was a 'calm boy', always laughing and supporting others, his mother said

Serhii (pictured) was loving and couldn't hurt a fly, according to his mother

 Maksym (left) was a ‘calm boy’, always laughing and supporting others. Serhii (right) was loving and couldn’t hurt a fly, according to his mother

Nastia’s mother Yuliia received a video of the friends waving before their departure, which Nastia’s female friend saying in the background: ‘They are going to where the shelling is’. 

Shortly before 10am, the first gunshots were heard on the street, and local residents said they went to hide.  

Volodymyr Asaulov, 64, who was watching his grandchildren with his wife in their house in Bucha, saw a car on fire outside their house and went outside to help as he thought people ‘might be on fire’. 

He took a photo of the burning car at 10.42am, just moments before he was shot in the head and killed. 

His wife said: ‘They did not aim for an arm or a leg. They shot him in his head. They wanted to kill him.’

As Volodymyr took the last photo of his life, friends Nastia, Serhii and Maksym were driving towards Bucha, as videos taken by Nastia from the backseat of the car reveal. 

They wanted to visit Serhii’s parents, who lived on Kyievo-Myrotska Street, which their car turned onto at 11.43am, with Serhii’s family home being just a few minutes away.

They didn’t know that there were Russians ahead, or that a civilian – Volodymyr – had already been killed by soldiers near their destination.  

Their bodies were found by Serhii’s parents. Maksym died immediately after he was shot in the head while sitting in the passenger seat, but Nastia managed to jump out of the car. 

Nastia, Serhii and Maksym wanted to visit Serhii's parents, who lived on Kyievo-Myrotska Street, which their car turned onto at 11.43am, with Serhii's family home being just a few minutes away (pictured: a shop that captured Russian soldiers passing by before the three volunteers were killed)

Nastia, Serhii and Maksym wanted to visit Serhii’s parents, who lived on Kyievo-Myrotska Street, which their car turned onto at 11.43am, with Serhii’s family home being just a few minutes away (pictured: a shop that captured Russian soldiers passing by before the three volunteers were killed)

Their bodies were found by Serhii's (second from right) parents. Maksym (right) died immediately after he was shot in the head while driving, but Nastia (left) managed to jump out of the car. She was shot in the legs, and Serhii, who also managed to escape from the car, threw himself over her to cover her - 'but they were just finished off', Nastia's mother said

Their bodies were found by Serhii’s (second from right) parents. Maksym (right) died immediately after he was shot in the head while driving, but Nastia (left) managed to jump out of the car. She was shot in the legs, and Serhii, who also managed to escape from the car, threw himself over her to cover her – ‘but they were just finished off’, Nastia’s mother said

She was shot in the legs, and Serhii, who also managed to escape from the car, threw himself over her to cover her – ‘but they were just finished off’, Nastia’s mother said.  

Serhii’s mother Tetiana tearfully said: ‘When he was born, his father carried him in his arms. He did the same when we found the children’, while breaking down in tears. 

‘He didn’t come to their home, but they came to his home and killed him in front of his house.’

Maksym’s mother Nataliia asked: ‘How could this happen? How could civilians be shot up?’ 

Nastia’s mother added: ‘Serhii was wearing a hat with pompoms, Nastia was wearing a light jacket and her long hair was clearly visible. There was nothing that would indicate any military affiliation. 

‘They were just driving a civilian car with three young people as passengers. They were not a military threat.’

The journalists recreated the events of March 4, 2022, minute by minute, and identified the Russian unit commander, who was later awarded the title of ‘Hero of the Russia federation’.

On March 4, 2022, shortly after 9am, Russian tanks rolled up at the bottom of Kyievo-Myrotska Street

On March 4, 2022, shortly after 9am, Russian tanks rolled up at the bottom of Kyievo-Myrotska Street

Volodymyr Asaulov (left), 64, who was watching his grandchildren with his wife in their house in Bucha, saw a car on fire outside their house and went outside to help as he thought people 'might be on fire'. His wife (right) said: 'They did not aim for an arm or a leg. They shot him in his head. They wanted to kill him.'

Volodymyr Asaulov (left), 64, who was watching his grandchildren with his wife in their house in Bucha, saw a car on fire outside their house and went outside to help as he thought people ‘might be on fire’. His wife (right) said: ‘They did not aim for an arm or a leg. They shot him in his head. They wanted to kill him.’

The journalists managed to identify a soldier called David Makarenko (pictured), who was captured clearly on a security video of a shop on Kyievo-Myrotska Street. He later revealed to the journalists who else was with him that day

The journalists managed to identify a soldier called David Makarenko (pictured), who was captured clearly on a security video of a shop on Kyievo-Myrotska Street. He later revealed to the journalists who else was with him that day

Hanna Kalaur, one of the investigative journalists at Suspilne involved in the film, said: ‘The Russians started shooting civilians as soon as they entered Bucha. They did not distinguish between civilians and military. 

‘It would have been very difficult to investigate these war crimes if we had not received a fragment of video from a surveillance camera that captured the first Russians walking down the street shortly before the killings.’ 

They managed to identify this soldier called David Makarenko, who was captured clearly on a security video of a shop on Kyievo-Myrotska Street. 

The video was captured close to where the shots were heard and near the house of Volodymyr and his wife.  

He later revealed to the journalists who else was with him that day. 

Sergeant Yevgenii Darmograi, another sergeant called Georgii Burduli, who died on March 21, 2022, according to Russian media reports as well as lieutenant Colonel Dosiagaiev, who is posthumously referred to as ‘Hero of Russia’, were in charge when the four civilians were killed on March 4, 2022, in Bucha. 

All of these Russians were in Bucha that day and could have been involved in the killing of civilians, for example via giving the kill orders, according to Suspilne. 

They journalists have handed over their evidence to law enforcement officials. 

Inna Biletska, editor-in-chief of the investigative department at Suspilne, worked on the investigation with her team for three months. 

She said it proved emotionally difficult to tell the story of Nastia, Serhii and Maksym but added: ‘Our experiences cannot be compared to those of people who have lost their children, as in this story. 

‘We talked to three mothers of cool young people who could see very clearly what their future would be like. Their pain is much greater. 

‘We can try to become some kind of minimal support, and most importantly, not to harm in any way, not to retraumatise these people, to help them tell the best they remember about their children, the best they want the world to know about their children.’

Nastia's mother said ever since she was a child, Nastia (pictured) loved music, theatre and travelling

Nastia's mother  Yuliia (pictured) said: 'She was a light for so many people. That's what I call her now. My light. She has turned into light. Just light, that's all. My little star'

Nastia’s mother (right) said: ‘Nastia (left) was a light for so many people. That’s what I call her now. My light. She has turned into light. Just light, that’s all. My little star’

Maksym made everyone laugh and was always surrounded by friends

Maksym made everyone laugh and was always surrounded by friends

Serhii always loved cars and even with 25 had little toy cars lining his room, his mother remembered.

Serhii always loved cars and even with 25 had little toy cars lining his room, his mother remembered.

Their mothers offered insight into their young lives.

Serhii always loved cars and even with 25 had little toy cars lining his room, his mother remembered. 

Tatiana added: ‘He didn’t tell me that he was volunteering, that he was going somewhere. Because I was hoping he was safe in Kyiv. When I asked him where he was, he said Kyiv.’

She said: ‘I raised a son who has never even kicked a cat. And then a scumbag came and shot him. In his back.’

Nastia’s mother said ever since she was a child, Nastia loved music, theatre and travelling. She added: ‘She was always determined and knew what she wanted. After attending university in Kyiv, she got a job working in IT. I was so proud of her.

‘She was a light for so many people. That’s what I call her now. My light. She has turned into light. Just light, that’s all. My little star.’ 

Maksym was a ‘calm boy’, always laughing and supporting others, his mother said. ‘He made everyone around him laugh. He was always surrounded by friends who spent a lot of time with him. 

‘He would ask to bring five friends home, and then it would be ten. He also loved his family,’ Nataliia said.

She said she knew her son working as a volunteer was something that ‘had to be done’ and added: ‘If someone needs help, you help.’ 

Ms Biletska said about the killings on March 4 and the resulting documentary: ‘Russians who watch the video and comment on it mostly express no regret for the actions of their compatriots. 

‘This, as well as other public statements by a large number of Russians, indicate that such a massive scale of war crimes by the Russian military is not an accident. This is the norm, in my opinion, for Russian society.’

Maksym's mother Nataliia (pictured) said she knew her son working as a volunteer was something that 'had to be done' and added: 'If someone needs help, you help'

Serhii's mother Tetiana (pictured) said: 'He didn't tell me that he was volunteering, that he was going somewhere. Because I was hoping he was safe in Kyiv. When I asked him where he was, he said Kyiv'

Maksym’s mother Makcиma (left) said she knew her son working as a volunteer was something that ‘had to be done’ and added: ‘If someone needs help, you help.’ Serhii’s mother Cepгiя (right) said: ‘He didn’t tell me that he was volunteering, that he was going somewhere. Because I was hoping he was safe in Kyiv. When I asked him where he was, he said Kyiv.’

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